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Capt. Dave Sipler's Sport Fishing - Jacksonville, St. Johns River/Inlet & near-coastal waters. Updated: 5/28/06

The Three Dimensional River

In my early days of fishing the river, I never noticed even half of what I do today, about the river's three dimensional aspects.

The secrets become unraveled with more and more time spent on the water. As any good fishing guide will tell you, "I still learn something new everyday."

My last report was about, May's trophy sized Speckled Trout. And I want to apologize, because May was not all about trophy sized Speckled Trout as I had hoped it would be. I was basing my report on last year and how good the trout were biting and how big they were during this past March and April.

But as of May 4th. For me all that changed. I went from absolutely being in trout heaven, too many days struggling to find those same fish that kept us so busy 2 months ago.

But, the river is vast and it's dimensions can shift in a matter of days. Nothing stays the same for long. The river is a huge organism, it lives, it breaths and it's inhabitants no way more about it than we will ever know. But as a full time fishing guide it's my job to stay on top of what's going on, and I take it very serious.

Chelsea's largest fish ever, a 26" Redfish. (PHOTO at: http://www.captdaves.com/Catch1.htm )

I don't like to accept the fact the "oh well they just aren't biting today." So since May first, I've been trying my best to track the Trout and figure out why they are not in the same areas they were this time last year. And I think at least, it's all about the salinity level of the St. Johns River.

Last May, I found the big Trout bottle necked into an area of the river were the water was 4-12 'parts per thousand' of salinity on my tester that ranges from zero salt water to 40 'parts per thousand'. So as you can see, 4-12 parts is pretty low. Yes, I even tasted it from time to time last year, to see if I could even taste any salt in the water, and I couldn't.

This year, in that same area of the river the salinity is a whopping 32-36 PPT out of a range from 0-40. So what did I do in May? I ran further south, (up river as we call it) and went hunting for "sweeter" water. I got as far as past down town Jacksonville, beyond the big city sky line and still found 32-36 PPT on the last of the falling tide.

On May 6th, Mark Gambone from Pittsburg caught this 5 pound Speckled Trout. (PHOTO at: http://www.captdaves.com/Catch1.htm )

So just why am I hunting "sweeter" water in the St. Johns River?? Because that's where the Speckled Trout should be in masses. I believe that they are looking for X number of parts of fresh water and X number parts of saltwater, to spawn in. Just like last year, in May.

I never found any water that was 4-12 'parts per thousand of salinity'. It doesn't exist. At least not any where I can go to in a 6 hour charter fishing day, in the St. Johns River. Even so, I have not given up in trying to duplicate last years phenomenal success on those big Specks. I'm still hunting. But have realized, this year will not be like last year. Not right now, at least.

Nonetheless, my customers and I have had good days and some not so productive days. We've still managed to pull our fair share of big Trout from the salty pure ocean water of the St. Johns, in May.

But there's always looking forward, to the next event that can change the salinity in the river.


The state for the most part is in a drought. No one is getting "too much rain". And here along the northern reaches of the St. Johns River, where we depend on flow from the south, because the river supposively flows from south to north. The St. Johns only has flow, when there's "run-off" from rain in it's southern region. If lets say the Orlando area is in a drought, none of the fresh water makes it to the Jacksonville area via the river. So the ocean water that enters between the jetties in Mayport encroaches southward with each strong incoming tide. Thus we have high salinity in the river all the way to south of downtown Jacksonville and beyond.

It's always been a word that Floridians hate to hear. But a Hurricane, or at least a tropical storm, will very quickly remedy the salinity problem in the river. But that's okay. I'm not in that kind of a hurry to find "sweeter water". At least not Hurricane hurry!

If I remember correctly, the same situation we are in right now happened back in 1999. Lack of rain made the river the same way it is now, and forest fires engulfed the state, from the dryness of the vegetation.

So last months report should have read....."March sure was the month to catch huge amounts of big Specks".

But remember, the big St. Johns River we fish is just a small part of a huge ecosystem, that's alive and it changes from month to month. And you can bet, like a detective I'm always out there hunting for clues and trying to figure out the secret lives of it's inhabitants, so you can catch'em. But I figure everyone who reads this report can benefit a little from what I have learned through the years. Because I don't really read or hear many fisherman talking about the same subject. Which leads me to believe, they just do not realize how three dimensional our fascinating river really is.


To really get the "meat and potatoes" of what's going on, visit my Daily Reports Forum http://captdaves.8.forumer.com/ here is where you can track each days catches, conditions and editorials. I take great pride in the fact that I have many that view the forum on a daily basis. I'm somewhat surprised when I do a new report, then come back two hours later and see that 20 people just read the report I just wrote.

Till next tide,

Capt. Dave Sipler's Sport Fishing

904-642-9546- (8am-8pm EST
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